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Jakarta Post

Letter to today's CEOs

  • Eunice Ali

    -

Surabaya, East Java   /   Mon, August 10, 2020   /   09:16 am
Letter to today's CEOs Working women: A working woman walks on a crossing bridge in Jakarta. More and more women are entering the job market as well businesses. (The Jakarta Post/Wendra Ajistyatama)

Dear CEO,

Did you know that you could benefit from advocating for women and minorities?

As we prepare for a post-pandemic new normal, we have had to adjust to changes on an unprecedented level: being forced into partial lockdowns and working remotely for months with no end in sight while juggling childcare now that schools have been moved online.

Google has announced that employees will be permitted work from home until next summer, and Twitter has allowed employees work from home permanently. Suddenly, maternity leave is not such a big deal at these companies.

But what about your company? Not just maternity leave, what about mentoring and engagement with important clients? Promotions and pay raises?

You may be aware of the unspoken view that the only reason men would go out of their way to stand up for or provide opportunities for women is that they have crushes on them and are likely to end up having affairs with them, despite the fact that championing and taking advantage of women are two distinct behaviors.

In addition, you do not want to be accused of harassment by being seen near women. Many senior men have told Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg that they are more likely to take other men on trips or to dinner than they are to take women.

Now you are in a dilemma. A part of you knows you can leverage your power and set an example in your company, but deep inside you also still want to enjoy the superiority that comes with locker room talk.

Please play the long game. You might not take discrimination seriously, thinking it is not your problem, so you are not willing to go the extra mile to take matters into your own hands. But #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter are here, whether you are ready or not; these are the forces shaping the nation right now.

When you look back at the end of your career, you will likely want to consider yourself part of the solution and not part of the problem. This is your chance to become an ally and influence the discourse.

The tricky part is getting people on board with you. You might sense that people think you are becoming less cool. But the founding fathers of the United States did not prioritize being cool; they did what was right and honorable.

They led the United States of America to declare independence from Britain. They created the foundation of human rights for their fellow citizens: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

It was also with this spirit that philosophers and scientists led Europe through the Enlightenment, out of the authority of the Church and into the age of reason.

You can bring a similar revolution to your company through equality of opportunity, as The Economist suggests. You can start by acknowledging that your employees need more than just diversity training from HR.

You can ensure that all direct reports are taken to dinner and given shots at big projects. You can make clear your criteria for career development so that it is accessible by merit to everyone. You can ensure that entry-level staffers are evaluated for critical early promotions into managers.

You can conduct regular surveys to create an environment where people are free to express themselves (“psychological safety”), are not interrupted during meetings and do not have their thoughts credited to someone else. These steps will augment your employees’ job satisfaction and sense of belonging.

Your success in managing employee retention would contribute to your company’s bottom line and reputation. The Harvard Business Review wrote that workers who felt they belonged performed 56 percent better, were 50 percent less likely to leave and reduced sick days by 75 percent. This would be the equivalent of more than US$52 million annual savings for a 10,000-person company.

These people were also 167 percent more willing to recommend their companies, and they received double the raises and 18 times more promotions. Your company would boost its competitiveness and, in turn, attract more talent.

Finally, you would define what it means to live out American ideals by making the American dream a reality for your employees. Your subordinates would take their cues from you on how to treat their coworkers.

They would no longer be content with being bystanders; they would put in the effort to listen to what their fellow workers had to say without dominating every conversation, and they would not ignore or sideline women and minorities.

Your company would become a melting pot of ideas that represented people across the spectra of gender, race and sexual orientation, among other demographic differences. You would be known for your personal impact. Your accomplishments would speak for themselves.

When you retired, it would be my turn to celebrate how far your company had come. Because when my time comes, I want to be able to say that it was your legacy that I aspired to live up to, not that of your competitors.

Sincerely,

Your future successor

 ***

The writer is a university student with experience in journalism and research overseas.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.